A concrete name is a name which stands for a thing; an abstract name is a name which stands for an attribute of a thing.
Realists and antirealists presuppose an intuitive distinction between abstracta and concreta in their debates about the problem of universals. Examples of abstracta are squareness (a property), betweenness (a relation), there being horses (a proposition), the null set, and the number 7. Examples of concreta are a stone (a material substance), God (a disembodied spiritual substance), Hurricane Andrew (an event), instants and seconds (times), points and expanses of space (places), the particular wisdom of Socrates (a trope), the sum of Earth and Mars (a collection), the Earth's surface (a limit), and shadows and holes (privations). It is desirable that a philosophical analysis of the concrete–abstract distinction allow for the possibility of entities of any intelligible sorts, given some plausible view about the nature, existence conditions, and interrelationships of entities of those sorts. This desideratum seems to require allowing for the possibility of entities of the aforementioned kinds. Six attempts have been made to analyze the concrete–abstract distinction.
Unlike abstracta, concreta are spatially located or spatially related to something.
Unlike abstracta, concreta are capable of moving or undergoing intrinsic change.
Concreta have contingent existence, whereas abstracta have necessary existence.
Unlike concreta, abstracta are exemplifiable.
Unlike concreta, abstracta are (intellectually) graspable.
Unlike abstracta, concreta can be causes or effects.
The Egyptians were the first to advance the idea that the soul is immortal and that when the body dies it enters into another animal which is then being born; when it has gone round all the creatures of the land, the sea, and the air, it enters into the body of a man which is then being born; and this cycle takes it three thousand years. Some of the Greeks – some earlier, some later – put forward this idea as though it were their own: I know their names but I do not transcribe them.
That, however, which is neither itself a body, nor a force within a body, is not existent according to man's first notions, and is above all excluded from the range of imagination.
THE NATURE OF A SOUL
The ideas we have belonging, and peculiar to Spirit, are Thinking, and Will.
The spirit-monad – the monad that has consciousness of itself.
In previous chapters, we have explored the intuitive notion of an individual substance, culminating in our analyses of this notion in Chapter 4.
This essay is an exploration of the ontological landscape of ordinary discourse and thought. Most philosophers would concede that there is an ordinary, commonsense, or “folk” conceptual scheme, and that this scheme has certain ontological presuppositions. Foremost among these is the idea that there are enduring things, or individual substances, continuants such as people, rocks, flowers, and houses. Other kinds of entities which common sense appears to recognize are events, places, times, properties, and collections, as well as surfaces, edges, shadows, and holes. Any ontologist must begin as a point of reference with a consideration of this folk or commonsense ontology, even if in the end he revises it in some way. At least since the time of Aristotle, philosophers have tried to organize and relate entities of the kinds which belong to the commonsense ontology, kinds which Aristotle called categories.
One of our primary aims is to analyze the ordinary or commonsense concept of an individual substance, and the other is to characterize the possible extension of this concept. These analytical enterprises do not involve any commitment to the existence of an individual substance so conceived. Our analysis of substance will be carried out in terms of a broad theory of ontological categories which covers both commonsense categories of the sort just referred to and categories of a more theoretical sort, which are scientific, mathematical, or philosophical in origin.
It is absurd that a magnitude should be constituted from non-magnitudes.
Mathematical continuity, at least in the versions of Dedekind, Cantor, and their successors, is clearly not instantiated in experience. This raises the question of the relation of mathematical continuity to experience.
We have maintained that point-positions and instants are not parts of space and time, respectively. Rather, we have taken the neo-Aristotelean view that such entities are dependent on places and times of higher dimensionality. Thus, we said that a point-position can be a limit of a line, or the place of a corner of a material object, or a place where two spheres touch, and so forth, but a point-position cannot exist apart from a place of higher than zero-dimensionality. Thus, our view has been an antifoundationalist one when it comes to space and time, one aspect of this antifoundationalism being that space and time are not composed of unextended parts.
However, many philosophers, taking their lead from certain mathematicians and, we believe, from the logicist tradition, hold that extended spaces and temporal intervals have a nondenumerable number of zero-dimensional parts. M. J. White has aptly described the contrast between the two views in question:
The tendency of contemporary mathematics, of course, has been to… [treat] continuous magnitudes as constituted of indivisible elements (e.g., sets of points) that are in a certain intuitive sense ‘discrete’. […]
Bundle: A collection of things bound or otherwise fastened together; a bunch; a package, parcel.
The former recited particulars, howsoever improperly… bundled up together.
WHAT IS A COLLECTIONIST THEORY OF SUBSTANCE?
The idea of a substance is nothing but a collection of simple ideas that are united by the imagination and have a particular name assigned them by which we are able to recall, either to ourselves or to others, that collection.
A distinction needs to be drawn between two sorts of collectionist theories about substance. The eliminative collectionist theory holds that there are no substances. Instead, there are collections of entities of another sort, which collections are not to be identified with substances. This view usually maintains that what are taken to be substances are really collections of nonsubstances. A proponent of this view seems to be the Hume of the Treatise. Hume is the sort of eliminationist who thinks that there is no intelligible concept of substance, but it is possible to be an eliminationist and also hold that the concept of substance is a coherent one.
A second kind of collectionist theory identifies substances with collections of nonsubstances. Such a theory attempts to provide a philosophical analysis of the concept of an individual substance as ordinarily understood in terms of a collection of this kind.
A Being of itself and independent from any other.
A substance is a being which can subsist by itself, without dependence upon any other created being.
PROBLEMS FOR THE INDEPENDENCE CRITERION
The chain of dependence which runs throughout creation.
The substance is not enough, unless it be clothed with its circumstances.
According to a traditional view, an individual substance is that which could exist all by itself or which in some sense is “independent”. In this chapter, we construct a new version of an analysis of the ordinary notion of substance in terms of independence, and argue for its adequacy.
Our project is to construct an adequate philosophical analysis of this ordinary notion of thinghood. In setting forth our analysis we shall rely on our earlier arguments that a thing in this ordinary sense, that is, an individual substance, is not reducible to or identifiable with an entity of another kind or ontological category, for example, a set or collection of either properties, ideas, sense-data, or events. (This does not rule out the possibility that substances can be eliminated in favor of entities of another kind or ontological category.)
First philosophy, according to the traditional schedule, is analytic ontology, examining the traits necessary to whatever is, in this or any possible world. Its cardinal problem is that of substance and attribute.
[Categories are] … the different kinds of notions corresponding to the definite forms of existence… an enumeration of all things capable of being named, the most extensive classes into which things could be distributed.
STATEMENT AND DEFENSE OF OUR PROJECT
Metaphysics has often been revisionary, and less often descriptive. Descriptive metaphysics is content to describe the actual structure of our thought about the world, revisionary metaphysics is concerned to produce a better structure.
One of the main projects in this book is to conduct a conceptual investigation of the notion of an individual substance as ordinarily understood, paradigm instances of which seem to be particular material objects and persons. In one of its ordinary senses, the term ‘thing’ means individual substance. For example, the term ‘thing’ is being used in this sense in the following sentences:
‘Wisdom is not a thing, it is a quality of a thing’.
‘Surfaces and holes are not things, they are limits and absences of them, respectively’.
‘A chameleon's turning color is not a thing, it is a change in one’.
All modern philosophy hinges round the difficulty of describing the world in terms of subject and predicate, substance and quality, particular and universal.
Indeed, what has been sought after of old, and now, and always, and is always puzzled over, namely, What is being? is this: What is substance?
TWO ARISTOTELEAN THEORIES
The first substance is the individual which can neither exist in another nor be predicated of another.
… that which receives modifications and is not itself a mode …
As we have indicated, the concept of substance has played a prominent role in the history of philosophy. Any attempt to provide an analysis of substance should be informed by an awareness of the efforts of the great philosophers of the past to characterize the ordinary concept of substance, and of the strengths and weaknesses of those efforts. As will become evident, our own analysis of the ordinary concept of substance is rooted firmly in one of the traditional approaches to understanding this concept. In this chapter, we will survey and critically assess several historically important attempts to analyze the ordinary concept of individual substance.
The first historically important attempt to analyze the ordinary concept is due to Aristotle, and states that a substance is that which can persist through change.
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